Is it a Weed? What to Pull in Your Garden


Weeds are one of your garden’s worst enemies, especially when your seedlings are just beginning to grow. Weeds are one of your garden’s worst enemies, especially when your seedlings are just beginning to grow.

Weeds can steal water, light, space, and nutrients from your fruits and veggies. That’s why it’s so important to weed your garden often and effectively.

It can be hard to tell a weed from your tiny fruit and vegetable plants. The last thing you want is to accidentally pull up a beet or stalk of kale when it’s just starting to bud. But timing is important when it comes to weeding, as weeds can grow stronger and choke out your baby plants.

And once you’ve figured out which plants are weeds, you need to extract them carefully so you don’t damage the fragile root system of your baby plants.

Read on to discover how to identify, remove and prevent weeds from taking over your Colorado garden this summer.

Know Your Weeds

The first way to set yourself up for success is by starting your plants in pots before transplanting them to the garden as seedlings.
This can help you more easily identify your plant in the garden, as it’ll be more devel-oped by the time it’s mingling with the weeds.
But if you’re planting seeds directly in your garden, you may be uncertain about what’s your plant and what’s a weed. In this case, it helps to know what a weed might look like.

Below is a list of 5 weeds that are common to the Boulder County area, and how you can remove them:

  1. Dandelion: You probably know what this one looks like. Yellow flowers that turn into cottony white puffballs. Dig them out, root and all, when young, before the flowers can develop and spread more seeds.
  2. Canada Thistle: Covered in spines. Remove this one by hand (wear gloves!). When you remove it, try to get the whole root.
  3. Bindweed: A vining plant with white flowers that you should pull by hand when-ever you see it. It’ll likely reappear, but keep pulling whenever you find it to minimize it’s spread.
  4. Purslane: A succulent that you should pull by hand.
  5. Lamb’s Quarters: Very common in Colorado. Green spade-shaped leaves. This weed typically appears in early spring. Pull early by hand.

How to Weed Your Garden

Now that you’ve identified what’s a weed, you’ve got to remove it carefully so you don’t damage the surrounding plants and their root systems. Follow the tips below to weed your garden effectively:

Use the right tools

  • The right tool for weeding depends on the condition of the soil and the size of the weed and surrounding plants.
  • If your plants are in the seedling stage, you’ll need to be careful when pulling out adjacent weeds, as disturbing the soil could damage your plants’ fragile root systems.
  • If the soil is wet, pull by hand, or use a dinner fork or flathead screwdriver to surgically remove small weeds.
  • If the soil is dry, use a hoe to cut the top of the plant off, or a steak knife if more precision is needed.

Weed only where you need to

  • Be deliberate in your weeding — make sure you don’t pull up your baby fruits and veggies, and don’t disturb any surrounding soil (as you could damage the root systems under the surface).

Weed when the time is right

  • After it rains, plan to spend some time weeding the garden — wet soil releases weeds’ roots more easily than dry soil.

If you can’t pull out the root, cut off the top

  • If you’re concerned that pulling a weed out by its root will disturb the plants you want to keep, don’t risk it.
  • You can use a hoe to cut off weeds at the surface when it’s dry.
  • Make sure your hoe blade is kept sharp, as this will make your job a lot easier.

Water your plants, not the weeds

  • If you spray water across your entire garden, you aren’t just watering your plants, you’re watering the weeds too!
  • Plus, it’s not helpful to get the leaves wet, as this can cause fungal issues.
  • The roots of your plants are what need the water, so gently pour water with a shower-type head directly into the soil at the base of each plant.
  • This level of care takes more work than simply using a sprinkler, but it’ll make it harder for growing weeds to access water.

Use herbicides

  • Herbicides can be a great way to attack weeds, but be careful to choose the right chemicals for the job.
  • Different types of weeds may require specific herbicides, so identify the weed before you start spraying chemical around, and be careful to avoid your plants.
  • In a vegetable garden, it’s best to use natural remedies like vinegar, many of which you can prepare yourself at home.

How to Prevent Weeds in Your Garden

As with most problems in life, prevention is the best way to go. Here are a few tips to minimize the problem of weeds in your garden before they get out of hand:

Organize your garden

  • Weeds love to move into open spaces in your garden, so be sure to follow the instructions on the seed packet for how to strategically space your plants.
  • This will ensure your plants have the space they need to grow while minimizing the available soil for weeds to thrive in.
  • Plus, close planting creates shade, which can keep light from reaching surrounding weeds.
  • Growing your plants according to a system — for example, rows that you can mark with a string between labeled stakes to help identify exactly where to expect new plants to sprout.
  • Try out tools like this free gardening app to most strategically plan your garden before you plant.

Use Mulch

Use a weed preventer

  • A weed preventer such as Preen contains chemicals that attack weeds, and al-so has fertilizer for your plants.
  • Apply mulch to the soil around your plants.
  • Mulch is typically effective for about 3 months until it needs re-application.

Apply landscape fabric

  • Landscape fabric is ideal if you’re transplanting plants from pots into your gar-den, so the root systems are already grown out a bit.
  • You can purchase a woven landscape fabric (make sure it’s woven, this lets light and water through) and lay it down underneath your garden before you plant, though you should just do this specifically where you need it.
  • Cut holes in the fabric big enough for your plants’ root systems.
  • Make sure you put healthy soil with compost and manure above the fabric, then transplant.

Take care of your lawn

One of the final rules in preventing weeds in your garden is preventing weeds in your lawn.

If you’ve got weeds in the lawn around your garden, you can expect them to show up in the garden itself, as weeds can spread by root or seed. Dandelions, crabgrass, clover, and nutsedge are common culprits in a Colorado lawns.

No matter how hard you work to make sure weeds don’t knock out your crop in the garden, you’ll waste your time if your lawn is full of weeds. Learn how to remove 4 of the fiercest lawn pests as soon as possible >